Saturday, February 9, 2013

creating a/broad, February 9, 2013

I Ask Too Much - a Cantata
by Cameryn Moore

She sat across from the table from me, a new friend, and told me she was afraid that she was going to start resenting my asking for help. She wasn’t resenting me yet, but she felt like she would soon and she didn’t want us to get there. I am still trying to learn how to say no, she said. 

I sat back and nodded. Do you want me to ask, and give you practice saying no, or do you just want me to stop asking for a little while?

She thought for a moment. Stop asking, she said.

In my defense, I had been listening to a lot of Laurie Anderson, and watching a lot of modern and post-modern dance.

This is where my mind went, in that moment. It’s both a memory and a metaphor:

During my second year of studying dance at a community college, I started taking modern dance classes. And dance history classes. And dance composition classes. It was an intoxicating mixture, for a “non-traditional student” at the age of 30, for someone who had just learned that I could dance, at all, to suddenly be turned loose into the land of “I can make art, too.” Mostly it was crap; having seen enough professional dance at that point, I had a pretty solid understanding of what we were playing with, and how far away we were. But every now and then, I went deeper.

Like with the assignment we had gotten in my composition class, at a moment when I was wound up and strung tight from a whole shit-tonne of personal stuff. I was in the middle of tense, tear-washed negotiations with my partner of nine years, negotiations to open the relationship. Oh, it was painful to go through, but I knew I wanted it. This on the heels of us moving to a new city so that I could work in journalism—at an incredibly low-paying job—and study dance—getting us deeper into debt. Things were tense. I was crying every day, aghast at my own boldfaced greed for going after what felt good, what I wanted, what I knew I needed.

So. This is what I was sitting in when I received an assignment to do a piece with a self-generated soundtrack, that is, sounds or words that we created and produced ourselves. My dance partner was enough of a friend that she knew some of my backstory, and when I explained to her what I had in mind—a spoken-word soundtrack, repetitive, woven back and forth between two voices—she agreed at once. But when I gave her the script, she was a little… unsure what to do with it.

I ask too much, I ask too much
(I ask too much)
Too much I ask
I am too much
(I ask much)
Too much
(too much)

And so on. In my defence, I had been listening to a lot of Laurie Anderson, and watching a lot of modern and post-modern dance. So our composition was loaded with all the trite, over-earnest movement vocabulary that we could pile into it. But it ended up a litany, a chant, a self-flagellation that tore my heart to shreds every time I performed it, and somewhere around the seventh or eighth pedestrian pirouette followed by a fall, it all became a walking/moving/dancing/dropping meditation. I ask too much…

All of that is what I remembered when my friend and I were sitting over coffee and I was agreeing to not ask for anything for a month. We are still friends, she is still finishing projects she agreed to do, we talked about the piece that I owed her, about things she wanted help with that I could help with. We are still friends. And yet memories of that other time, dancing and dropping and reciting over and over, “I ask too much”, still echoed gently in my brain.

I don’t ask too much. I just ask a lot.

This is not the first time that I have been told that I ask too much. Throughout my relationships, yes, that previous one and the one I’m in now, I have gone after what I wanted, and asked my partner for support, even when what I want—more pleasure, more autonomy, my own space, no children—seems to be SO FUCKING MUCH, and come out of nowhere and fly directly in the face of everything that is going on in that relationship. 

And ever since I have been pursuing performance art projects of my own direction—for the past 13 years—I have been asking. I don’t ask too much. I just ask a lot. I have been fundraising and soliciting donations and begging time and energy and scraps of wood and cupcakes. I ask for comp tickets (or volunteer spots, I’m not lazy) and cross-promotion and “do you know anyone who can draw/design/do security?” and “can I have your best non-profit rate for that?” I am currently broke as a joke, so even just living, let alone pursuing dreams, feels extremely shaky and marginal sometimes. But when I care this much about bringing into existence my vision, and trying to be a catalyst for positive and profound change in people’s lives, I can’t let shame deflect me. Ultimately I am responsible for bringing my dreams fully into life, but I NEED HELP. Even if I ask, I might not get the help that I need. But if I don’t ask, for sure I won’t get it. I will stop asking this one friend for a month, because she has asked me to and I can remember that. But I can’t stop asking, in general. 

The thing I want you to know, is that you can say no, and I will not be hurt. The thing I want to know, is that if you say yes, you are saying yes freely and without duress, which means I can have that thing that I have asked, that you have given me, I can take it and use it and enjoy it.

At the end of the day, I have to believe… that is not too much to ask.

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